America vs Kaspersky Lab: Why the US wants to outlaw Russia's most popular cyber firm

Eugene Kaspersky said he would give the US software code to soothe spying fearsAlexey SAZONOV/AFP/Getty Images

For months, US government officials have voiced concerns about Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab. Now, 24 hours after the FBI questioned US employees of the company at their homes, it has emerged plans are underway to ban the company's software from military networks.

A Senate spending bill, which proposes Defence Department military funding plans, says (p.12) the DoD may prohibit Kaspersky products, which could include anti-virus software, over fears the firm could be vulnerable to "Russian government influence."

Under the title 'countering Russian aggression', the bill stated: "The committee believes the United States must do more to deter Russian aggression, whether across its borders or in cyberspace."

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It specifically referenced the spate of suspected Russian cyberattacks during the 2016 US presidential election.

On Tuesday (27 June), it was revealed the FBI had visited Kaspersky employees in multiple cities.

Reuters said no warrants were served and the security firm later confirmed its staffers had a number of "due diligence" conversations with agents.

NBC News reported the G-men were on a fact-finding mission to ascertain how close the US side of the business was linked to operations at its headquarters in Moscow.

A day later, the spending bill, compiled by the Senate Armed Services Committee, was released online. It remains in draft form, and will still need to pass the Senate, the House of Representatives and be signed by President Donald Trump before becoming law.

Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen, who reportedly inserted the lines about Kaspersky Lab, told Reuters that alleged "ties between Kaspersky Lab and the Kremlin are very alarming" and claimed it "cannot be trusted to protect critical infrastructure, particularly computer systems."

Is Eugene Kaspersky linked to Russian intelligence?

In May, Kaspersky Lab was forced to address accusations from unnamed US sources who claimed the company's products could be exploited by the Russian state to let hackers infiltrate American targets, including spying on home computers to read emails or steal documents.

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The firm's founder and chief executive, Eugene Kaspersky, said that, if asked, he would provide US authorities with software "source code for checking." He stated: "When we have government contracts, in some cases we're asked to disclose our technologies. And we do it."

US officials believe Kaspersky, who graduated from the KGB-backed Institute of Cryptography, Telecommunications, and Computer Science in 1987, is somehow linked to Russian intelligence. But as critics point out, many US intelligence officers later go on to work in the private sector.

Furthermore, it's an assertion the Kaspersky and his business has consistently denied.

"As a private company, Kaspersky Lab has no ties to any government, and the company has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts," Kaspersky said in May," adding the location of the company's HQ does not impact on its core aims.

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"Just as a US-based cybersecurity company doesn't allow access or send any sensitive data from its products to the US government, Kaspersky Lab products also do not allow any access or provide any private data to any country's government," he continued.

"During the last 10 years, Kaspersky Lab has discovered and publicly reported on multiple Russian-speaking cyber-espionage campaigns, which is more than any other US-based company."

The firm is currently probing the recent 'Petya' outbreak, which is proving to be complex.

Kaspersky Labs remains a well-respected player in the security industry. "If the US government has Intel that kaspersky is somehow bad; make it public. Or (my opinion) it's crap rumors and needs to stop," tweeted Robert M. Lee, a former cyber warfare officer for the US Air Force.

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